The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread #2 For 6/5/14: #23 Bosnia & Herzegovina
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Mujdza - Spahic - Bicakcic (Sunjic) - Salihovic
Hajrovic Misimovic Lulic
Safet Susic is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in both the 70s and 80s on European soil, and is widely held as the greatest foreigner to ever play in Ligue 1. Nowadays Susic earns the distinction as the tactician that has led Bosnia to their first major tournament in its country's young history.
The wonderful rise for this war torn nation was in full evidence in the last World Cup cycle, as the side narrowly missed out on South Africa 2010 with a nervy Portugal team just getting through in the UEFA two-leg playoffs. The same painful result happened again at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo and company, as Bosnia were denied by Portugal passage into Euro 2012 in the playoff stage.
Determined to not leave their qualification at the hands of a playoff stage for a third time (and a third possible encounter with Portugal, who had to go through that route to get to Brazil), Susic's side produced a wonderful campaign in Group G, edging out Greece on goal difference. The defining moment came when Bosnia responded to a shock 1-0 loss at home to Slovakia by getting revenge four days later in Zilina with the crucial 2-1 road win. The mental toughness exhibited on that night last September gave ample reason to believe that Bosnia will be a major handful to any side they play in June.
Their goal scoring ability has carried over to the pre-tournament friendly buildup, with top star Eden Dzeko remaining at the top of his game. He maybe the third choice forward at Manchester City right now, but Dzeko is currently showcasing that he does warrant the distinction of an elite international striker. It makes Susic's decision on whether to leave Dzeko up top by himself or play him with a partner more intriguing. The signs now lead to direct wingers, 22-year old Izet Hajrovic and Lazio force Senad Lulic forming a formidable front three with the former Wolfsburg talisman, although the always productive Vesad Ibisevic is a great option if Sesic wants to give Dzeko a partner.
The center midfield is definitely filled with class, with 32-year-old Zvjezdan Misimovic having long term chemistry with Dzeko during their days at Wolfsburg. They terrorized Bundesliga defenders almost every weekend before Dzeko departed to the Premier League. Misimovic is still a true #10 playmaker of the highest order despite the decline in alacrity and having to play in China with Guizhou Renhe. Capable of unlocking any defense, Misimovic's only realistic chance to play in a World Cup is something that will be cherished by many, especially those Wolfsburg fans who witness how valuable he was to their 2008 league title.
If Misimovic is the midfield luminary of past and present for Bosnia, Miralem Pjanic is the one of present and future. The main constant in AS Roma's record breaking season, Pjanic was a comprehensive choice on every Serie A team of the season. Although he may not be blessed with tremendous pace, Pjanic is a classy box to box midfielder with all the perquisite skills: long range passing, long range shooting, smart runs from the midfield, calm dribbling and tackling steel.
A couple of youngsters in 21-year-old Muhamed Besic or 22-year-old Tino-Sven Susic will likely content to start along Pjanic in holding midfield. Besic is a true energetic destroyer and calm passer in the midfield, showing why he rose up the ranks in Hamburg and how he is far deserving to leave Hungarian club Ferencvarosi for a bigger side. Tino-Sven is the nephew of manager Susic and has similar steadfast defensive midfielder traits as Besic.
Either Besic and Susic will become the primary protector for club captain Emer Spahic and (maybe) Ermin Bicakcic at centerback. Outside of a torrid time in Champions League play, Spahic had another reliable campaign for Bayer Leverkusen as a midfield enforcer. On the other end of the Germany top flight spectrum, Bicakcic gave an admirable effort in a season where Eintract Braunschweig was expectedly overmatched. He'll be favorite to start, if healthy. over Toni Sunjic, who was badly exposed for pace the other night against Mexico.
Manager Susic is spoiled for choice at leftback, as the entertaining Sejad Salihovic could be pushed back to allow Lulic to play up front. The Hoffenheim captain is owner of one of the sweetest left foots anywhere and has been instrumental in the staggering rise of Dietmar Hopp's club. A threat from set pieces, the 29-year-old is a must in the lineup for Susic.
But just in case Salihovic suffers an injury, Sead Kolasinac is as fine a backup leftback as anyone else in the tournament. The 20-year-old German born Kolasinac is developing into a fine prospect and took over the position after the season ending ACL injury to Dennis Aogo. Unfortunately for Susic, his rightback spot is the weakest position on the team by far, with limited Avdija Vrsajevic and Mensur Mujdza battling for the place. Mujdza has the disadvantage of sparingly playing for Freiburg this season and will be keyed upon by his Group F rivals as a place to attack.
As a full World Cup debutante though, a hole at rightback as the only major problem for Bosnia speaks to how strong a side they have become and how there will be disappointment if they don't progress out of the group with Argentina. With a solid starting eleven and a bench that is likely to include Kolasinac, Haris Medunjanin, and Ibisevic as good bench options, Safet Susic won't have to worry about his team not having enough quality to make headlines in Brazil.
It's something that Susic is long use to doing, translating that great career as a player to a growing one as an international manager.
Under The Radar, Key Figures:
Hajrovic - One of the more underrated young wingers in the world, the 22-year-old showed why he looks to be a key player for the next decade for his country with one of the two goals scored at Slovakia in September. Owner of another terrific left foot, Hajrovic loves to cut inside and will fancy his chances anytime he gets. Although it will take him to the start of next season to fully adjust at his new club Galatasaray, Hajrovic has enough quality and tactical sense to be Bosnia's next big name.